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What property owners need to know about renting

Looking to rent out your property? Check out our tips for property owners before you do.

Finding tenants


References and proof of employment are ways of screening prospective tenants. If a prospective tenant cannot provide references or does not have a sufficient or steady source of income, consider having a cosigner on the lease. You can also find reliable tenants by employing a tenant screening service or a credit reporting agency.


You can offer a tenant a lease, which typically runs for one year, or a verbal or written tenancy-at-will agreement, which runs from month to month. A tenancy-at-will offers more flexibility, but a lease offers more security.

Rent and payments


At the beginning of the tenancy, you may legally require a tenant to pay the last month’s rent in advance and a security deposit in an amount no greater than the equivalent of one month’s rent. If you collect them, you must:

  1. give proper receipts
  2. pay interest on an annual basis, and
  3. in the case of the security deposit, put the money in a separate interest-bearing account in a bank located in Massachusetts.

It is important that you become familiar with and comply with the strict requirements of the security deposit law.


You are entitled to the rent on the day specified by the terms of the tenancy. You may charge a late fee only if there is a written agreement in place that allows it. This fee cannot be charged unless the rent is at least 30 days late.


You may legally charge a tenant for first and last month’s rent, security deposit and fee. It is illegal for you to charge holding or pet fees, or a broker’s fee (unless you are licensed broker).

Maintain your rental property


Landlords must register their rental units with Inspectional Services and post their contact information in the building. Rental units — except for those in one- to six-unit, owner-occupied dwellings and public property — must be inspected at least one every five years. This ensures that they are in compliance with the State Sanitary Code.


A tenant may only be required to pay for utilities if there are separate meters for each service charged. If you are holding the tenant responsible to pay for heat and hot water, it is best to put that agreement in writing.


Every rental unit must have a working stove and oven, screens for each window below the fifth floor from April to October and working locks on all windows and entry or exit doors. You are not required to provide refrigerators, blinds, shades, or laundry facilities, but if you provide them or other amenities, you must maintain them.

Run into tenant issues?


If you and your tenant have a dispute that you cannot resolve, consider mediation. Mediation is an informal process in which you and your tenant can try to reach a resolution with the help of an impartial mediator.

Mayor Walsh is asking Boston’s landlords to pledge to work with their tenants to maintain their housing. Learn more about the pledge.


If you need to evict a tenant, you must terminate the tenancy with proper written notice and file a summary process action in court.  If you are converting a building with four or more rental units into condominiums, the tenant have extra protections against eviction under a Boston Ordinance.

Many landlords hire attorneys to assist them with what can be a lengthy and complicated process.

The Housing Stability Notification Act requires ALL LANDLORDS planning to end a tenancy agreement to provide the tenant with a Notice of Tenants’ Rights and Resources. More information and the downloadable Notice of Tenants’ Rights and Resources is available on our website.

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